Login Join IOPS

IOPS: A Priority, a Problem, and a Solution By ICC

  • Written by:
  • Published on:
  • Categories:
  • Comments:
  • Share:

Posted on behalf of the IOPS Interim Consultative Committee:

We in the ICC hope we all agree, and indeed it is certainly a natural implication of our definition, that one priority of IOPS needs to be growing. Not in a frivolous manner, but with additions of lots of new people who read and think through the IOPS defining descriptions and who decide this is an organization for them, and who are welcomed to participate.

We also hope we can all agree that whatever its root causes, and along with numerous other issues to be taken up as we proceed, and again in accord with our definition, an imbalance in gender ratio in IOPS isn't helpful and may prove devastating, over time, so it is a problem that needs fixing.

So, we have a priority and we have a problem, both applicable to the whole organization, to each national branch, and to each city chapter. Whatever other things members undertake, can we undertake some campaign that will provide a solution to both of these issues, simultaneously, and soon?

Why not? It seems simple enough.

Suppose we all - everyone in IOPS - pledge to try to recruit, for, say, one month, from our friends, from people we work with, or from political people we know, at least one new member. And suppose we pledge also that in our efforts we will strive to always have the group which we successfully recruit, whether it is one or more new members, have at least one more woman than man in it. If you recruit one new member, it is a woman. If you recruit two, they are both women. If you else recruit three, at least two are women. And so on.

There are currently about 1,200 members of IOPS. If we all take this really seriously, which doesn't mean just saying it is nice idea, I hope it works, or saying, sure I will do that, and then forgetting about it. But if we all take  it as a personal priority, at least like the way we have a priority of going to work each day, or brushing our teeth each day, neither of which we skip lightly - then some members will pass the month, trying, but not succeeding in recruiting anyone. However, other members will recruit two or more. Can we average one recruit per current member? We think so, if we each personally, really make it a priority to try, over the month. And if we do so, then by May 15 we will have about 2500 members and over half of those will be women, not to mention all of us having had the experience of trying to recruit. It really is that simple.

Well, no, it isn't quite that simple.

Because recruiting members won't be simple. People will have diverse reasons for ignoring appeals entirely, or, less often, for outright rejecting them. People will say they are too busy and don't have time. They will say it is elitist. They will say it isn't local enough. They will say it is too international. They will say it isn't international enough. They will say it is too male, too western, too this or too that. What you most often will not hear - however - brace yourself for this - is anything about the actual definition of the organization, or the actual web system. It will very nearly all be presumptions about what will come, not commentary on what is and is sought. The hardest part of recruiting, our guess is, in that light, will be getting taken seriously, and getting a serious reaction. Once that is achieved, however, more often than not, if you are trying to enlist people with politics like yours, you will succeed without much further ado. But getting that serious assessment from people, that's the rub.

And overcoming the tendency to ignore or dismiss without any serious assessment will require considerable patience and persistence. To recruit well, one will need to feel comfortable presenting and answering questions about IOPS. But, doing it with one person, and then another, perhaps not so terrifically at first, will yield much better efforts the next time around. The hard part for many will be, once we are willing to learn on the job, that we will have to withstand a certain amount of rejection, of ridicule, and of dismissal of all kinds. The same person may need to be approached often, to get a serious reaction.

Here is the upshot. If people try this, and report their experiences in the IOPS blogs when they think their experience will inspire others, or provide useful lessons for others, we will together succeed.

We are trying, we hope others will try as well.


The Interim International Consultative Committee of IOPS

Ezequiel Adamovsky - Argen
Michael Albert  - US
Stanley Aronowitz - US
Elaine Bernard - US/Can
Patrick Bond - S. Africa
Jason Chrysostomou - UK
Noam Chomsky - US
John Cronan - US
Ben Dangl - US
Denitsa Dimitrova - UK/Bul
Mark Evans - UK
Ann Ferguson - US
Bill Fletcher - US
Justin George - Aus
Eva Gollinger - Ven
David Graeber - US/UK
Andrej Gubacic - US/Balkans
David Harvey - US
Bruno Jantti - Fin
Antti Jauhiainen - Fin
Pat Korte - US
Yoann Le Guen - Wales
Mandisi Majavu - S. Africa
Yotam Marom - US
David Marty - Spain
Trever Ngwane - S Africa
Pablo Ortellado - Brazil
Harpreet Paul - UK
Cynthia Peters  - US
John Pilger - UK
Justin Podur - Canada
Vijay Prashad - US
Nikos Raptis - Greece
Paulo Rodriguez - Belgium
Anders Sandstrom - Swe
Boaventua Santos - Port
Lydia Sargent  - US
Steve Shalom  - US
Uruj Sheikh - US
Chris Spannos - US
Paul Street - US
Emma Tarver - US
Fernando Vegas - Ven
Marie Trigona - Argen
Chico Whitacker- Brazil
Gregory Wilpert   - US
Florian Zollmann - UK/Ger

Discussion 32 Comments

  • Shirley Jane Hobbs 20th Apr 2012

    Great to find you here this morning opening this discussion. For myself, as a woman perhaps, I have decided that before I can effectively speak about IOPS, I need to translate the entire set of documents defining IOPS into my voice. When I read them now, it's like reading a foreign language that I do understand quite well, but don't speak very well. I wonder if others would want to join a study group with me where we begin to learn conversational IOPS speak. We could practice face-to-face on Skype or with members who live nearby. And, we can attempt to find potential new members who might let us practice on them.

  • Caragh - 20th Apr 2012

    What a lovely idea! Lets do it!

    • Shirley Jane Hobbs 20th Apr 2012


      Would you open a study group and see who might be interested? I'll be there.

      I am imagining a line-by-line speaking the entire set of documents on the website in our own voice. Maybe not linear, but allowing the thread to go as a conversation would go--wandering around and always back to the common commitment of communicating our vision of a participatory society.

      We could just jump in with the mission statement.

    • 20th Apr 2012

      Shirley, sounds great.

      I work long hours, but am very keen to participate whenever and however I can.

      I used to be an actor, so I'd definitely be interested in experimenting with such lines.
      This IS that important!


    • Shirley Jane Hobbs 22nd Apr 2012

      Caragh, Zane, and James, now there are four of us ready to start a group on Skype. Two in London, two in US. I am currently 2 hours west of James who is in New York. I am traveling to the East Coast soon. Point is: is there a way and a time for us to get together on Skype for an hour or so to practice between individual study time? If we can find a time, we could begin with introductions. My schedule is fairly flexible--let's start with someone whose schedule is not so flexible. Will you look with me?

  • 20th Apr 2012

    Shirley, as you adroitly picked up a day or so back, that was exactly the type of thing that needs to be done - and the learnings made available so that other groups can benefit.

    Perhaps we should start simple: what is the problem for which IOPS is the solution? Once we can get a handle on that, and can communicate it effectively, we will be moving towards eliminating barriers, as you so rightly suggest.

    • Shirley Jane Hobbs 20th Apr 2012

      Oliver, Focusing on the problem may be one way to approach the learning. It would not be my way.

      I think there is a future out there that is attracting people because something is missing in their lives now. The approach I would take would be to talk so much about the new future that the current 'reality' would lose it's viability.

      In recent years people have been using the metaphor "hospicing" the old way--just letting it die of it's own natural causes. Defining it and resisting it will not serve our purpose. It is on it's last leg so to speak. Let's just let it go peacefully.

      So, I would not start with "what is the problem?", but with "what do you want for yourself, your children and the future?" IOPS offers a clear statement of that possibility.

    • Will Henry Lapinel 20th Apr 2012

      Shirley, my question isn't exactly relevant to the topic, but I could help but ask - I am very interested to learn more about your third paragraph. By the "old way" you mean capitalism, correct? I would like to know more, but initially, I am of the belief that the current system is very strongly fortified and well-rooted, that capitalism is not at all on its last leg, and that defining the problems with it and resisting it are absolutely necessary for creating a real alternative within our lifetimes.

    • Shirley Jane Hobbs 22nd Apr 2012

      William, Point well taken. It's people like you that add to my confidence that Capitalism is on its last leg. I am just not a part of the resistance, but a part of the vision of the new order.

    • Will Henry Lapinel 22nd Apr 2012

      Shirley, thank you! As I said, I do not share your confidence that capitalism is on its last leg (do you not watch mainstream media? :) Just look at the things that people are watching and believing!) but I do like your positive and inclusive style of expressing a desire for change and wanting to move forward with developing a radical alternative, as opposed to railing against the current system. I think we definitely need both, but don't have enough of the latter in current social movements. You have way more experience with this in your life than I do, but is it really possible to push for an alternative to the established order and not also be in resistance to it? Is it not true that in order to raise awareness of the benefits of real democracy, we must also raise awareness on the inherent flaws of the system? I'm just saying!

    • Shirley Jane Hobbs 22nd Apr 2012

      I do think we need both and all of the above. Nothing is missing in this unfolding of a new world. I don't watch much mainstream media, but I have read Z-net and listen to Potus Politics on XM radio, and a few other things. I listened to an interview with Tim Geithner yesterday. I don't have a TV.

      I can hold all of it as a part of the whole without my personal resistance. I have no doubt as to where it is headed and to the importance of s significant number of people with their "eye on the prize", not looking back.

      I also somehow know what we all will know at some point, the solution was not in the problem, but bigger and outside of the problem.

      I think IOPS solution is one of those solutions where we can keep our eyes keenly focused in order to arrive at the 'prize'.

    • Will Henry Lapinel 23rd Apr 2012

      Heard that! Thanks Shirley!

    • 20th Apr 2012

      Thank you, Shirley.

      I am so looking forward to this peaceful meander (with pruning shears!) through the overgrown gardens of specificity.

      Let's begin with opening our imaginations, begin to grope towards a reclamation of our own senses, and their sensations, within the context of our lifework.

      Let us find the presently inchoate sensations, images, and words that structure our experiences, including those of loss, alienation, misunderstanding and misrepresentation.

      Let us re-enchant our world, and articulate the vision that we all sense, intuitively, is inevitable.

      Thank you Shirley, and thank you ICC for your courage and wise leadership.

    • Shirley Jane Hobbs 22nd Apr 2012

      Zane, I'm all with enchantment. Looking forward to co-creating it with you and iops.

  • James Green 20th Apr 2012

    Hi Shirley,

    I like the sentiments behind what you are saying. I have discovered that it is not sufficient to subscribe to the mission or vision statements being proposed. But it`s also necessary to do the intellectual work of struggling with how to express the ideas and defend them. It`s great that we have many people involved or connected to our network who are able to write and speak brilliantly about activism and IOPS. But if this is going truly be a participatory organization we need to make room for ordinary people who have not yet developed those skills.

    I like the idea of a regular conference call on skype or some similar medium where people can congregate and get to know one another, and talk about what they are doing, what IOPS means and what it has to offer. This might be a particularly good strategy at this point in the evolution of the organization before membership is large enough to allow face to face chapter meetings.

    It would provide a safe space for people to experiment talking about these ideas without the immediate "rejection, dismissal and ridicule" that can accompany it. It will also help to create community that will be able to galvanize itself together to work on one or more projects. Perhaps it could develop into something organized around a theme, or a book club and discussion group with people interested in reading Parecon.

    • Shirley Jane Hobbs 20th Apr 2012

      And, to remember: this discussion was looking for solutions for a notable absence of women in the organization. We could have a goal to include at least one woman each time a man joins. We've accomplished something here in this discussion by having an equal number of each sex. We will do it!!

    • Shirley Jane Hobbs 22nd Apr 2012

      Caragh, Zane, and James, now there are four of us ready to start a group on Skype. Two in London, two in US. I am currently 2 hours west of James who is in New York. I am traveling to the East Coast soon. Point is: is there a way and a time for us to get together on Skype for an hour or so to practice between individual study time? If we can find a time, we could begin with introductions. My schedule is fairly flexible--let's start with someone whose schedule is not so flexible. Will you look with me?

  • Joshua Cordell 20th Apr 2012

    I guess I am a little confused as to why the problem of gender parity is being downloaded onto the membership, when the problem exists at the highest level of this organization: the interrim committee. Shouldn't the committee take action first and actively promote women onto the committee before asking IOPS members to recruit more women?

  • Ian R. 20th Apr 2012

    So we tell people "Well, currently we are searching primarily women. Could you please join later?"

    In all the political organizations I were, the number of women was not higher than 30 %, no matter which policies the higher levels of the party tried, sometimes they had trouble to even fulfil the 50 to 50 quota for the leadership positions, because there were no women available.

    It´s never a matter of qualification, it´s just a matter of missing female members.

    Might be that the causes of this are deeply rooted in the way of discussion and communication in organizations and the role models in our societies.

    Would be helpful to hear from women what keeps them away from engaging in political organizations. I think there are a lot of social studies made about this already.

  • Ian R. 20th Apr 2012

    @Shirley you wrote:"For myself, as a woman perhaps, I have decided that before I can effectively speak about IOPS, I need to translate the entire set of documents defining IOPS into my voice."

    Thank you for bringing that up. Probably this might be a reason why there are so few women and non male members among the people joining.

  • Phil Grove 20th Apr 2012

    I agree with @Joshua that the problem of gender balance begins with the composition of the Interim Committee. I am surprised that this wasn't obvious to the organizers. My experience in the United States is that many women don't like to work with men that much, period. So a lot of women are not going to be drawn to an organization that seems to be composed mostly of men or for which the leadership is mostly men. Looking around my location, a lot of the most effective progressive organizations are women's organizations. But there aren't many examples of organizations of progressive men and women working together as equals and sharing leadership in roughly equal numbers. Interesting, eh? I am thinking that IOPS is going to need a strong, organized, vocal women's caucus if women are going to be comfortable joining in large numbers. I predict that the approach of pleading with women to join an organization that seems to be mostly men isn't going to work.

  • 20th Apr 2012

    I cannot begin to describe how happy this makes me. Thank you, ICC!
    I can now feel the potential for the warm sap to flow into the inviting blossoms of Spring.
    We now have a vision of the future to fecundate!

  • Michael Albert 21st Apr 2012


    Of course those on the ICC, and those back during the time of the poll assembling people for the ICC, were and are aware of the issues. And of course many more women were approached than men...and with more persistence, as well...

    Women did not agree to serve however, in remotely as high numbers as men, per those asked. There is much reason for this - but I suspect it is very nearly entirely a function of past history and people's current responsibilities and expectations - since, when this was occurring, iops itself had zero track record and certainly excellent commitments vis a vis gender, and other focuses, that all who were approached thought were excellent. When folks explained not serving on the ICC it was without exception formulated in terms of time available. But, whatever the cause for each person, and the imbalance among men and women, the effort continues.

    Wherever a problem begins, in any case, what always matters most is how to end it. Changing past history of the left, over decades, is not possible. Changing society, and thus the conditions of men and women, is a priority, but not going to happen in the short term. This message points out one very simple way... relatively fast... that can deal with the issue now. Recruit, and do it among women, more than among men, as per the advisory.

    The real issue now, at least according to this ICC message, is, can 1300 members speaking face to face with activist family, friends, workmates, etc., in a month or two, with a concerted effort that says this is the main thing I want to do for IOPS in this period whatever else I may also do now or later, recruit 1300 new members, or more? Can I recruit one or more? If we can it will make evident that IOPS can grow at a very fast and probably accelerating pace. It will also solve, or very nearly solve, the membership gender imbalance issue. If not, then it reveal that growth will be a long slog, and the gender problem probably also a longer term one.

    I myself honestly believe the difference is one of effort. My experience is if people who now belong prioritize getting one or two other people aboard, with clarity as to what they are joining and why, then almost all who try will succeed in that task. If we don't, we won't.

    Patriarchal history is at fault, past choices are at fault, built up expectations and differentials of responsibilities are at fault - and who knows what else. So rather than, yet again - enunciating all that, which we all know, perhaps this time we can just take a positive approach and use our energies to recruit, and make a difference! Of course, when recruiting needs us to better prepare ourselves to talk about iops, that step must be climbed, too.

  • Caragh - 22nd Apr 2012

    Here be :


    • Shirley Jane Hobbs 22nd Apr 2012

      Caragh, Zane, and James, now there are four of us ready to start a group on Skype. Two in London, two in US. I am currently 2 hours west of James who is in New York. I am traveling to the East Coast soon. Point is: is there a way and a time for us to get together on Skype for an hour or so to practice between individual study time? If we can find a time, we could begin with introductions. My schedule is fairly flexible--let's start with someone whose schedule is not so flexible. Will you look with me?

  • Joe Henson 23rd Apr 2012

    Hi all, yes we were discussing this problem in the forum. Apart from one-on-one interactions, this can also be taken into account when we are reaching out to network with different existing groups -- let's talk to groups with a good gender balance. It kills two birds with one stone, getting the word out to more women and learning from such groups (getting advice about this specific problem and also strengthening our awareness of the issues these groups are focusing on).
    A few IOPS members have simply been e-mailing groups to ask whether they are interested in meeting and chatting. It takes no longer than posting here to send the e-mail! It worked for me in my town.
    Also on a general point, as people find with teaching, people just seem a lot different on what the immediately grasp, what motivates them, and what switches them off. Some will respond simply to vision and some people need to hear an answer to the question "what are you actually doing right now?" That is, some people are excited by hearing about concrete projects that will achieve tangible results, even if ours are only ideas at this stage. While I am rather less hopeful than some posters on this thread about the spontaneous dissolution of capitalism, I am quite hopeful that anticapitalists can do better at appealing to people by updating their language and content.

  • G. Svoboda 1st May 2012

    it is good that people see the problem that there are more men than women at iops. and i am also afraid that a lot of women won´t participate if there are mostly men in their group. and the consequence is most new members will be again men.
    i do not think that the way it is described in the article will function. get 2 women as a new member than you can get a male again.
    when i am talking with people about iops i can not say, if they will join or not. i see this if they will come to a meeting or sign in. everyone (especially men) should think to talk to women about our organisation. but if still more men are interested in iops (or simply have more time to participate) what can you do?
    important for me is that (pro)feminist issues and for men to reflect their dominant and privileged position they have in societies are important within iops, theoretically and in the practice. and not only now because there are more men in this organisation, every time because gender inequality is not a thing that we can change so easily, that will need a long time much effort and self criticism. like so often happens (in left groups) we should try to avoid that gender equality is seen as a womens thing. women criticize patriarchy and men do nothing else than say they are right. it is also a thing men have to deal with and not just let the women do it. every time you criticize capitalism you should also think what are the special oppression mechanism for women.

  • Fabio Sallustro 10th May 2012

    For italian readers: http://www.iopsociety.org/italy/blog/iops-una-priorit-un-problema-una-soluzione/it

    This is the transaltion.

  • 11th May 2012

    I'm going to post this in a few blogs, so I apologise for the repetition.

    With some key Occupy events coming up, I’d just like to offer a few thoughts about engaging with non-IOPS, even resistant, Occupiers about our organisation. I have more to say, but don’t have much spare time, so I’ll be short.

    I first want to say that Danny Schechter has discussed much of this already in his excellent Al Jazeera article, so what I say here should really be seen as an engagement with that text.

    In my limited knowledge, there are some key areas where Occupiers resist an organisation like IOPS:

    1) Structurally: this is the whole issue of GAs versus hierarchy and authority. This has been addressed several times here and in Znet.

    2) Culturally: the above gives rise to several cultural issues.

    a) IOPS is seen as just another old, fuddy-duddy, crusty, authoritarian, hierarchical institution, replicating the structures and culture of what they are fighting against. This is in part a standard generational, cohort issue, but is also because they see these structures as responsible for our present predicament.

    The irony is that this is exactly what IOPS is also working towards, albeit in a more programmatic and systematic fashion.

    b) Dynamic issues, such as the sexiness, street smarts, media-friendliness, and thrill of Occupy happenings. In Zucotti park, this also took a divisive class form, in the clash between the drummers and those ‘intellectual elites’ wanting to restrict the drummers’ free-expression in their arrogantly perverse desire for more structure, and silence!

    3) Technologically: this includes not only specific technologies, such as the internet, but their modes of use, their cyber-cultures. The major distinction can be made between the older users (like me!) and the younger users, the ‘digital natives’. The most obvious divide can be seen in the discussion here in the ‘IOPS and Facebook’ blog.

    The most salient element within Occupy is Anonymous. Now, Anonymous members, even within Occupy, get immensely frustrated by the whole GA tar-baby. They have a much more cyber-punk attitude. So, while they have a real alliance, even identification, with Occupy, their dismissal of much of the niceties of Occupy processes in favour of dynamic, forceful, effective, impulsive, media-savvy, sexy, risky actions put them even further out from IOPS.

    So, I would like to offer a couple of thoughts about interacting with Occupiers, Anonymous, and other potential IOPS members.

    Apart from the obvious humanistic things like listening to and having respect for the other, truly attending to and acknowledging their expressions of their experiences, meeting them where they are in their life-worlds, rather than imposing a vision on them, it is good to emphasise how IOPS, and also ZNet, can give much substantial, long-game support, resources and structure to the more dynamic, fluid, and situational Occupy.

    This can be done by ensuring that IOPS is presented as a balancing, complementary, connecting presence, rather than a competing enemy.

    By showing that IOPS is not wanting to rescue ideological apostates, nor to win converts to the old left/right hierarchical political bodies whose rotting corpses we presently inhabit, but rather that we desire to join with, enable, fertilise and give birth to, that vision of a more just and equitable world that we, or ‘the 99%‘, all share.

    This can most effectively be done by radiating an open, human warmth in all our interpersonal interactions, both face to face, and online.

    These are just a few personal thoughts. All the best for any activities anyone is involved in! Have fun!

  • 27th May 2012

    A story from my recruitment efforts: a lady friend of mine reacted to IOPS's woman-focused recruiting by saying it seemed superficial.

    However, when we are changing our recruitment strategies or focus we are actually changing the organization, since we members make up the organization and recruitment is the first contact that many people have with IOPS. Thus, woman-focused recruiting is not necessarily superficial; and in can be a good idea.

    Example: if a man only views his male friends as people who might want to be politically engaged and ignores his female friends when he recruits then he might undergo a positive change for IOPS when he is encouraged and tries to engage his female friends politically about IOPS. IOPS and the person will be for the better, and his women friends will not be ignored.

    Another example: if someone talks quickly to women but finds they aren't interested in IOPS but then are encouraged by IOPS to be particularly patient with women (as a generalization) because of a generalized history of less political activity (if this is true) then this person can engaged these women more deeply and patiently as is needed to connect with them for them to join IOPS. IOPS and the person will be better for having developed better communication skills, and the potential women recruits will not have been cut short.

    However, my lady friend doesn't want to be talked to as a woman but as a person when I try and recruit her for IOPS.

    Basically, the lesson, I think, is to not not recruit anyone, to reduce and try to eliminate your biases that keep you from viewing some people as interested and not interested, and then also to meet people where they are at when recruiting, talk to them as long as you need to, and in the way that is needed for you two to understand each other and for the other person to feel comfortable.

  • Gregory VanGaya 27th Jun 2012

    Pop-media. I think we should all fundrais, in our locals, to finance a group of electronic arts workers who can produce scripts and comic-strips which can serve both as popularization of paresoc and IOPS (pull members in) and as edutainment.

    We could get the fundraising activity to a point (via dues or fundraisers) where it can support an office in Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, or some place where we can afford to run an office of electronic artists. Maybe we have some such artists in our midst already. We can distribute, say an animated series or du jour comic scripts over the internets' social networks. Every thing produced would have the iopsociety.org web address (URL) on it, and maybe even join today, or big names of celebrities who've recently joined, what have you. Maybe a little pie in the sky, but we have to work and reach for our goals or are we really moving forward? Is our current membership drive via ad hoc, do what we can via email, telephone, etc., working?